Despite California wildfires and continuing problems in the housing market, General Motors and its Asian rivals posted U.S. sales increases in October and Toyota continued its drive to replace Ford as the No. 2 U.S. automaker, according to sales results released Thursday.
Chrysler LLC took one of the biggest hits, with sales down 9 percent compared to last October. The company said Thursday it will cut up to 12,000 jobs and eliminate shifts at five assembly plants to deal with overproduction and falling demand for vehicles.
The month was generally flat compared to last October, with some new models like the Cadillac CTS — which saw sales up 75 percent — bucking the trend, said Jesse Toprak, chief economist with the auto information site Edmunds.com.
Chrysler said its car sales were up 12 percent but were dragged down by truck sales, which fell 14 percent. Darryl Jackson, vice president of U.S. sales for Chrysler, said worries about falling home values were affecting consumers’ buying habits in an already weak market.
“Today’s company announcement on product changes reflects our customer-driven philosophy and current market conditions,” Jackson said in a statement.
Ford Motor Co. also took a hit. Ford’s U.S. sales fell 9.3 percent as the automaker continued to pull back on low-profit sales to rental car companies. Ford said its car sales dropped 26 percent from last October, largely because it no longer sells thousands of Ford Taurus sedans to rental agencies, while its truck sales were up 1.2 percent.
October was Ford’s 12th straight month of sales declines.
“Almost all of this is due to a previously planned reduction in daily rental sales,” George Pipas, Ford’s top sales analyst, said in a conference call with reporters and analysts. “This summer has been tough. Beginning in May, the daily rental reductions on a year-over-year basis have had a big impact in total sales result.”
Pipas said sales to individual consumers nearly matched levels of the same period a year ago, and the automaker is pleased with its retail market share, which has been consistent for several months at about 13 percent.
Toyota’s sales rose 4.5 percent, boosted by a 7 percent increase in truck and sport utility vehicle sales. It was the best October ever for Toyota, helping to reverse the automaker’s uncharacteristic downturn over the last few months.
Spokesman Xavier Dominicis said much has been made of the company’s recent bad news, including the defection of top executives for Ford and Chrysler, criticism from environmental groups and a Consumer Reports’ survey that downgraded some Toyota vehicles.
There also have been challenges beyond Toyota’s control. Toyota lost a few thousand October sales because of wildfires in Southern California, its home base and biggest market, company officials said.
“When the bar is set as high as it is, any little misstep or lessening of our progress becomes fodder for analysis,” Dominicis said. “I think we’re optimistic as the year comes to a close. ... There’s a resilience (at Toyota) that can drive in the face of adversity.”
GM’s sales were up 3 percent, fueled by a 6 percent increase in sales of the automaker’s new trucks and SUVs. Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of global market and industry analysis, said in a conference call that the company’s 25 percent share of the U.S. market has been consistent for the past several months and is up a full share point from a year ago.
“We’re feeling pretty good we’re able to buck industry trends ... and post sales increases on the retail side as well as total sales,” he said.
Ballew said a large part of the sales gain is linked to new products, including the “blistering start” to the Cadillac CTS. That helped drive Cadillac’s 9 percent sales increase for the month, its best of the year.
Nissan Motor Co. also bucked expectations with an increase of 13 percent for the month, largely due to strong sales of the new Altima sedan and Versa subcompact. Nissan said its new Rogue crossover also was exceeding expectations, with more than 5,000 sold in its first full month on the market.
Honda Motor Co. said sales were up 4 percent. Honda’s car sales were up 14 percent, thanks in part to the new Accord sedan, but truck sales were down 8 percent.
The Associated Press reports unadjusted figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 26 sales days last month and 25 in October 2006.
Ford shares fell 37 cents, or 4 percent, to close at $8.50 on the New York Stock Exchange. GM shares fell $1.94, or 3.9 percent, to $37.25 and Toyota’s U.S. shares were up a penny to $114.45.